Letters to the Editor

From the week of May 3, 2001

Heavy Traffic

Road to nowhere:T.R. Witcher's "Collision Course," in the April 19 issue, confirms what I have thought for a long time: Motorists are a greater threat to public safety than are murderers. Last year, car accidents claimed a total of 84 lives. Motorists killed 37 pedestrians. By contrast, there were only 34 homicides in Denver.

So what do Colorado's right-wing politicians do about the carnage on the roads? They increase spending on roads and highways in order to generate even more traffic. At the same time, Colorado is among only five states that refuse to spend any money on public transit.

While their main priority seems to be promoting the use of cars and trucks, in their spare time the highwaymen in the Colorado Legislature do everything possible to maximize the number of people in jail, thereby putting this state in the lead in growth of the prison population.

Mark Itkonen
Littleton

There auto be a law:Thanks for a story about stupid people who don't know how to drive and don't know how to watch carefully before crossing the street, among other things.

And how much you want to bet that Bronco had no car insurance?

Nick Werle
Colorado Springs

Concrete dreams:This letter is in response to some readers in the April 19 Letters section complaining about light rail and "enviros" wanting to take away their cars. One does not need to be an environmentalist to see the folly inherent in our car-focused transportation system. In fact, fiscal conservatives should be appalled at the tax dollars squandered on automobile travel, not to mention the impact of car travel on human health and welfare.

There are a few key facts (source: Natural Capitalismand references therein) about automobile travel that these "caros" might consider. 1) Road maintenance alone costs U.S. taxpayers $200 million every single day, a figure that does not include costs of new road construction. Talk about a corporate subsidy: GM and Exxon do not pay for roads even though their businesses depend on us building them. 2) 250 million Americans have been killed or maimed as a result of automobile accidents over the last century. More people have died in car crashes than in all the wars our country has ever fought. T.R. Witcher's terrific article on local automotive tragedies in the same issue was a stark reminder of this toll. And you can imagine the tremendous cost to society of the hospital bills that result from these deaths and injuries. 3) Our reliance on automobiles has made us increasingly dependent on foreign oil, to the tune of $60 billion a year. This dependency compelled us to fight the Gulf War and forces us to pay big bucks for overseas military activity. 4) The average American driver spends 100 to 200 more hours in his car than just ten years ago. This is time not spent with family, among other things.

These are just a few of the many reasons we ought to be rethinking our transportation system here in Colorado and around the country. The Union Station plan may be a mess, and I am all in favor of cheap and effective solutions, but our transportation problems are very real and affect everyone whether we admit it or not. Any investment we might make in public transportation pales in comparison to the ridiculous sums we squander in money and lives for our cars and roads. So wake up and smell the asphalt: Let's do something before this place turns into Los Angeles.

Scott T. Kelley
Arvada


The White Stuff

Happy trailers to you:How come a self-respecting "liberal" publication, which would see red to no end if someone used the N-word or some other sort of racial epithet, has no problem labeling an entire trailer-park community "trailer trash" in T.R. Witcher's April 26 "Mobile Savages"? Would black people in the inner city therefore be "ghetto trash"?

Sorry, but I've become a little uncomfortable with all of the recent "white trash"-bashing that seems to (still) be in vogue these days. Please do everyone a favor and don't give in to the unhealthy American tendency to find a national scapegoat in the form of trailer-park residents -- not everyone in this country is given anything close to a level playing field, and the need to use words like "trailer trash" is indicative of some psychological issues that don't need to be addressed here (dust off Fromm's Escape From Freedom if you get the chance). At the end of the day, I don't think anyone grows up wanting to live in a trailer park, and using words like this displays a crass class prejudice that gives fuel (and rightly so) to those who disdain the paint-by-numbers liberalism that many feel your magazine represents. (At least Michael Roberts hasn't shown us all how "hip" he is by making self-deprecating comments about his own European ancestry lately -- but then again, it's always been obvious that Michael has some "issues.")

I write this because I feel like I used to engage in the typical routine of watching Jerry Springer with a detached sense of superiority: I grew up in a neighborhood somewhere between working-class and lower-middle to straight-up middle class. The "hessians" proved to be a good scapegoat, providing fuel for my adolescent sense of superiority by easily identifying themselves with the typical gray-primered Novas loudly blaring AC/DC in the parking lot. Now we have awful movies like Joe Dirtthat have taken "white trash"-bashing to a new level, and sometimes I can't help but feel I'm watching the equivalent of a minstrel show for the new millennium.

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